MI6 got together with the underwater stunt coordinator of “Tomorrow Never Dies” Lee Sheward earlier this week for a chat about his work on "The World Is Not Enough" and his views on the stunt industry...

Lee Sheward Interview - Part 4
28th October 2003

MI6 got together with the underwater stunt coordinator of “Tomorrow Never Dies” Lee Sheward earlier this week for a chat. He also performed as a stuntman in “The World Not Enough”. In this final installment of a four-part interview we chat about his work on "TWINE", his favourite memories, and his views on CGI in the stunt business...

Playing A Goon

What stunts did you work on in "The World Is Not Enough"?
On “The World is Not Enough” we started off on a sequence where Bond is in a missile silo and we were cast as the goons stealing the nuclear missile and Bond arrives and there’s a chase through the catacombs. The door starts shutting and Bond is trapped on the wrong side with the baddies and as Bond runs down there’s a big machines gun fight with the three of Robbie’s goons. Paul Heasman got shot early on and Andy Bennett got shot down the corridor and I got right to the end with Robbie and I’m the guy trying to get into the lift and Bond shoots me. As the lift goes up Bond sees the bomb is ticking and has three seconds to get out and then there’s this huge fireball.

From start to finish we played the parts right through and then we were the safety guys for when the fireball goes down the corridor. In total that took about 5 weeks to shoot that and also we were involved with the boat chase. The boat chase was along the Thames the opening sequence crashing through fish markets and restaurant and god knows where we were, the people milling around in the restaurants and streets as this boat went hurtling through.

CGI & Stunts

How do you feel about the advances computer imagery is making into cinema? Do you feel the days of the stunt man are numbered, or will there always be a need to have a man in the midst of the action for real?
No I don’t feel the days of stuntmen are numbered. I think the stuntmen of today are a different breed of the guys before us. Out forbearers were much more physical than we are. As in... a lot more risks were taken. I think today’s guys are a lot more technically advanced than the guys we followed. I think the advance in CGI can be a good thing but not always.

With films getting bigger and bigger more complicated and advanced if you've got computers that can aid that it’s a good thing. When we shot “Titanic” we were the guys who did the 30ft fall from the ship or whatever it was. Then as soon as we got beyond that fall an extra 200ft was added obviously that is an impossible thing for a human to do - basically then the computers took over but it gave the desired effect. So I don’t think were going to be killed off by computers quite yet. Also my children are watching films now, and they know the difference between what has been done by computers and what has not. And I can see it going not completely full circle, but it’s going to come back on itself and people are going to want to see the real thing. My children reorganize it and people to follow will know what is a real guy taking a fall what is a real car jumping a ravine or what is a digitally enhanced picture been tweaked up in a computer. You have to go with them - you can’t fight them.

Do you think underwater shoots will continue or do you thing that computer graphics will take over?
Underwater shoots will always carry on I think, some of the things you can shoot underwater are beautiful. You only have to go to go back “The Spy Who Loved Me” with the Lotus underwater. How could you shoot that digitally; it would cost a fortune and wouldn’t be real. We’ll always carry on doing underwater shoots. As I said earlier you just got to be careful with underwater shoots because being underwater slows everything down you have to be careful to keep the tension and drama.
If you’re not careful because you are in a dense medium and you can’t move about quickly it can look boring.

To shoot in computer is extremely difficult. We shot a thing called “Daylight” a few years ago with Sylvester Stallone, stuck in the mud under the water and the pressure sucks all the water up and releases him. But it was shot dry and added all the water was optical, but it just didn’t look right. It would have been so much better to flood the set and have it underwater but they went for the high tech version. But I think underwater shoots will carry on, it’s just what degree you want to do them at.

Best Bits

What has been you favourite film you have worked?
There’s not one particular film out of the about 80 features I’ve worked on that stands out above the rest. I love what I do and am extremely lucky to do for a living, but have worked bloody hard to do what I’m doing. I’ve wanted to be a stuntman since I was 7 years old, so everyday I go to work with a big grin on my face.

I’m not saying that every day of the work is very pleasant but there's not one particular film that sticks out from the Bond films, “Mission Impossible”, “Titanic”, “Interview with a Vampire”, any of the movies if see my CV. You sit around in very expensive cars screaming around on a film set and they’re paying you to do it. So were very lucky to do what we do, but I’ve worked very hard to get where I am.

What has been you favourite stunt you have performed?
There are a few really. I did one about 10 years ago, I did a car turn over at the old Wembley Stadium (UK) where we used a pipe ramp (which is a steel tube ramp to turn cars over) that turned over at 70 mph. I’m not in the game for records but that was exceptionally fast. There are not many people in the country that have done anything that quick, and I’ve done a couple now. So those spring to mind.

Being thrown back through a plate glass window in “Mission Impossible” was very exciting, we had to test 50 or 60 times with a polystyrene window to get the measurement correct. That had already been built so we couldn’t have developed the stunt with the set bring built - it was the set that was built - that’s what you've got. So we had to test off location them come in and measure it exactly right, and if anything had gone slightly wrong I would have been more than just... that’s probably one of the closest things I’ve done where if it did go wrong you were going to get killed. So it worked absolutely perfectly. There were a couple, “Interview with a Vampire”, flying around on wires on fire. Going back to the underwater unit in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, I’m very proud of that sequence. Even now it still sits in my CV when people say have you done underwater, I say well I did the whole of the Bond underwater unit, we had a lot of fun on that show.

I was asked to work on “GoldenEye” and asked to work on the tank chase in Russia, but had already signed a contract to do “Mission Impossible” so while the boys were doing “GoldenEye” we were in Prague doing “MI:1”, so I missed out on that but then I did the next two Bonds.

I was approached about coordinating main unit on “Die Another Day”, but that never came to anything. I've seen the Bond films hundreds and hundreds of times. You don’t see that much of the “Die Another Day” ice chase in the final film, but I’ve seen the whole uncut chase, which knocks the spots of what is in the movie!

Many thanks to Lee Sheward.


MI6 Biography

Name: Lee Sheward

"Tomorrow Never Dies" - Underwater Stunt Coordinator
"The World Is Not Enough" - Stuntman

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